In summer 2022, Loyola Academy’s English Department transitioned away from a summer reading program, which traditionally tasks students with a list of preassigned readings to be completed over the summer months, and launched a more flexible and experiential Summer Learning Experience. With the summer reading requirement lifted, students now had their choice of learning in a variety of creative ways, all centered around the values of RIPLOC. The goal? To develop the mindset that students are lifelong learners beyond a classroom environment.
“The Summer Learning Experience encouraged me to continue to try new things and to branch out of my comfort zone,” says Claudia Lyman ’23, who went hiking in Aspen with her family in July.
“The new Summer Learning Experience assignment was fun because who doesn’t like to share something fun about their summer?” reflects Devion Johnson ’24, who visited Knox College to meet the track team and coach. While there, Devion also learned a fascinating bit of history: one of the historic Lincoln-Douglas Debates was hosted at Knox College in 1858. He adds: “Personally, I liked summer reading because the stories were actually interesting, but the summer experience brings out the fun and interesting stories of other people’s summers.”
Active, experiential learning is at the core of Jesuit education. Students develop a deeper understanding of the global community when they are empowered to take ownership of their learning. And so, the new Summer Learning Experience was designed to engage students in diverse learning experiences and foster a spirit of genuine curiosity through authentic encounters with the arts, culture and community.
For some students, this meant time to travel with family—to Ethiopia, Athens, Paris, Norway and more. For others, it meant summer service trips across the United States or work at local volunteer sites such as Feed My Starving Children in Schaumburg. Many chose to bask in the wonders of nature, enjoying hikes with friends, coastal sunsets, or even the simple beauty of a backyard flower garden. Still others celebrated the arts, attending museums, art fairs, live music performances and a variety of large and small productions.
“I think it’s fun and exciting,” says Luka Sentic ’25, whose summer experience included visiting grandparents in Croatia, where he also had the chance to attend a family wedding, a baptism and even try ratatouille for the first time. “What I like about it is that you can show others what you did over the summer.”
“Our context over the past few years is that we have been lacking in experiences. This program is an attempt to have our school community engage with the world around them and to be open to what it may offer them—opportunities for learning and opportunities for doing service,” wrote Principal Charlie Heintz in a memo to faculty and staff introducing the program (teachers were encouraged to participate, too!).
To develop the structure of the new Summer Learning Experience, the English Department sought the input from other departments in order to include opportunities in the arts, social sciences, technology, spirituality, service, as well as traditional reading choices. They compiled a list of suggested experiences organized by RIPLOC categories—religious, intellectually competent, physically fit, loving, open to growth, committed to doing justice.
Once students completed an activity, they logged their experience online with a short description and submitted a photo. Throughout the summer months, these photos were shared weekly across Loyola’s social media platforms to highlight the variety of ways students were spending the time that would have typically been reserved for summer reading. When students returned to campus for orientation in August, they worked on creative reflections and shared their experiences with their classmates.
More Rambler Reflections
“I really enjoyed the Summer Learning Experience!” says Patrick Loftus ’23, who toured around London and Paris, visiting a number of monuments and museums, with his family. “I learned more about myself by connecting the experiences I had over the summer to RIPLOC, which is why I enjoyed this better than the summer reading!”
Eva Bonanno’25 enjoyed a farmers’ market in Harbor Springs, Michigan, where she bought fresh raspberries, beautiful flowers and kale. “I really enjoyed doing the summer experience this year because I felt that it allowed people to do things and experience things they might have never done before,” she reflects. “I like this model much better than summer reading because I think that it allows people to experience things in real life, rather than reading stories in a book.”
“I personally enjoyed the Summer Learning Experience because it encourages us to explore more in the world and to learn more about the different parts of RIPLOC,” says Bella Licudine ’24
, who attended a National Student Leadership Conference (NSLC) session at UC Berkeley that focused on the medical field. Bella describes learning more about the field of medicine and making friends with people around the nation. “With this model, I am able to get a deeper understanding of RIPLOC, which is why I like the Summer Experience more than summer reading.”
With her family Tsvetomila Kondeva '25 visited Valencia, Spain, saw the Gonzales Marti National Museum of Ceramics and Sumptuary Art and the Valencia Cathedral. They also enjoyed Paella Valenciana, a traditional dish. "The Summer Learning Program was a truly enriching experience," she says. "I like how it combines learning with traveling and spending time with family and friends. In my opinion, it is a much more effective and fun way to expand one's knowledge than summer reading."